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August 6 2006
Field Commander - PSP Review
Release Date Distributor Publisher Developer
25/7/2006UbisoftUbisoftSony Online Ent.
Save Size Difficulty Players Rating

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Graphics look pretty special.
Sony Online Entertainment have developed some interesting titles on the PSP, but Field Commander looks like becoming one of their biggest franchises. It has taken a while for the game to come out following a couple of delays in America, and then a couple of month translation time for PAL territories. One thing is certain, this turn based strategy game not only looks wonderful, but also plays superbly.

In the game you join ATLAS (Advanced Tactical Legion for Allied Security) to defend the world against covert organization whose goals include terrorism, inciting wars, black market trading, and global domination. As Field Commander you will command a division of highly trained soldiers recruited from around the world to complete your objectives. To aid you in this task ATLAS has seen fit to equip you with a complement of vehicles and weapons that combine the military might and technology of over 50 allied nations.

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The top-down gameplay view.
The majority of Field Commander's gameplay takes place from an isometric viewpoint. From here you move units around the game map and if within range can order them to attack enemies. Should a battle take place the camera zooms in from the isometric viewpoint to a close up 3D view. The battles are pretty simplistic with one shot from the attacker and - should he still be alive - one from the defender as well. In order to win a mission players may have to wipe out all the enemies, or complete a task such as taking control of an enemy base. Fortunately for gamers not used to turn based strategy games there's a pretty neat tutorial to run through to get you up to speed - but it won't take too long.

As with any strategy title the 30 single player missions start off rather slowly, and you'll often have to build enough resources before heading into battle. Many of Field Commander's missions use a fog of war which sees sections of the map blacked out until you explore the area, and have units located there. Speaking of units players can command units on land, in the skies or on the oceans. In total Sony Online Entertainment have included 36 different units from soldiers to tanks, stealth bombers to submarines, stealth boats to attack choppers. Impressively each of the units has its own strengths and weaknesses with few units feeling 'similar' to others.

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Battle in the desert.
Another aspect to this game is your ability to earn cash, and therefore purchase new units. Cash is earnt by capturing buildings which can be done with your infantry units, and may take several turns, but is well worth it. Naturally the enemy will also be pretty keen to capture them back so you have to defend them well.

Sony Online Entertainment have included a rather nifty Mission Creator to create your own missions to play, or upload to the internet for all to enjoy. Likewise you can also download other gamers created missions. The level editor is easy to use with a wide range of options. When you’re finished you can upload your mission to the internet for other gamers to play. Alternatively you can download missions created by other gamers to play on your own PSP.

One of the best aspects of this title is the ability to play a battle on a single PSP. Being turn based you can simply pass the system to your mate, let him take his turn, and then get it off him for your go. If that's not your thing then you can play Ad-Hoc wireless games, or via Infrastructure mode. Hell, they've even thrown in a transmission mode which allows you to send moves online from one gamer to another an then wait for a response (perhaps the next day). Now that's commitment to multi-player gaming!

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Selecting your next move.
So what are our issues with the game? Firstly some of the battle maps were a little on the small side, and while we can appreciate that these still play very well I would have loved to see some much larger maps available as well. I would have also really liked to see the developers include an option to build buildings, such as factories so you could build up a slightly different strategy - but that's getting into smaller details. It would also be nice to be able to queue your moves so you don't have to move the same unit every turn. This also applies to capturing a building where you have to select 'capture' every turn or you miss out. Fortunately there is an option to cycle between all units that haven't moved in each turn making it easier to check them all quickly.

Graphics in Field Commander are pretty sharp. The Isometric viewpoint is always clear and easy to see where the units are while the 3D graphics are fairly decent as well. The frame rate is fairly solid, although there is the occasional skip here and there and some of the textures could be a bit sharper - although with the amount packed onto this UMD it wouldn't surprise me to hear they ran out of room. If there's one downfall it's that there is a lack of CG cut scenes in the game - something which I always enjoy.

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Zooming in to another battle.
Audio in the game is highlighted by some superb weapon effects and explosions - probably among the best we've heard on the PSP to date. Even through the systems tiny speakers the effects are meaty enough. The music does become slightly repetitive, but always of a high quality while the speech is extremely impressive - although mainly limited to the briefings between missions and occasional taunt from an opponent.

While not perfect Field Commander is one hell of a ride and certainly one of the most engrossing and enjoyable games we've played on the PSP since its launch a year ago. Fortunately this game isn't over in a couple of hours either - this is certainly one of the longer games on the system, and this is helped even more with an engrossing multi-player mode. Those of you that have even the remotest interest in turn based strategy games must check this out. Superb.

Review By: Dave Warner

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GRAPHICSThe occasional glitch but overall one of the best looking PSP games.
SOUNDSpeech backs a solid package with good music and plenty of effects.
GAMEPLAYOne of the best turn based strategy games with plenty of units.
VALUETonnes of levels, plenty of multi-player and some challenge at times.
OVERALLField Commander is a brilliant strategy game on the PSP - and one which will have fans hooked for hours on end. An essential purchase, no doubt about it.

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